On feelings, floor-fillers and recovery
Millie O'Brien
14:58 12th October 2022

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Tove Lo is back! Everyone’s favourite grunge pop girly and Swedish sweetheart has been on the scene since her big breakthrough ‘Stay High (Habits)’ in 2014. After a short and sweet Covid-induced break, Tove is making her return with the upcoming release of her 5th album Dirt Femme - the first released under her own label Pretty Swede Records, after parting ways with Island Records.

Gigwise sat down with the singer-songwriter to discuss her grand return, Euphoria, body image and the revival of dance music. 

Content warning - this interview deals with the topic of eating disorders, take care of yourself and click off if you need.

GW: After a brief step away from the spotlight, how does it feel being back in the swing of things: performing, releasing music, press - the whole shebang?

TL: Honestly, it’s feeling great. I love being back playing shows, I just feel just happy to be back doing what I do. I was not one of those people that were like “Covid was a hard time but I enjoyed taking it a calmer pace”. I didn’t really feel that way.

I saw a very accurate tweet saying ‘Tove Lo was giving euphoria before euphoria was euphoria’. And now you have a track on the soundtrack ‘How Long’, which only makes perfect sense. How did that all come about?

I love that. When I saw that tweet, I was like - I’ll take it. I would like to think that they were inspired by me. I think there was a few things like I didn’t notice it but some of my fans were like, “There’s two of her locations in the first season” and when I saw that I was like, “That is fucking awesome. This show is made for me. I need to have music in it.” They’re two very popular locations so I can’t actually say it was from me but when it’s two you’re like maybeeeee. I actually met with one of the directors from the episode and she said that, Oh, I found the Moonlight Rollerway from watching your short film”. I was so excited.

At least to me, I feel like the whole vibe of this is in the world that I love. It felt like something new. I think it has great representation of all their troubles and flaws and I think it’s really beautiful. It’s funny a lot of people are like, “They are promoting drugs!" and watching that you do not wanna do drugs, that’s not what you’re taking away from it. 

I wrote Sam Levinson a letter saying I think what you’ve created is so beautiful and genius and so raw. I would love to have a song on this show. Here is music that I’ve written that is in essence of this series but let me know how you feel. So when ‘How Long' made it on the soundtrack i was just like, “OH MY GOD”. I did not know that there were 2 triangle dramas happening in this series that would fit so perfectly with the song but it was clearly why it made it. Sonically, I think it fits that world too. That felt like a cool manifestation moment that happened.

You wrote that Euphoria track ‘How Long’ with you long term collaboration partner, Ludvig Söderberg, who you’ve also written bangers like 'Disco Tits', 'Habits (Stay High)', 'No One Dies From Love' alongside. How do you as a pair operate inn the studio together, what’s your system?

It’s very from scratch. We just spend hours talking shit about whatever and he’ll maybe have some chords he likes and I’ll have a subject that I wanna sing about. We turn over every stone before we decide what the right melody is. He’s also a very meticulous person. He will sit for 5 hours deciding which kick drum to use in the session. I like producing but I do not have the patience for that but I will sit with lyrics for days. We both have a lot of input on each others craft.

I very much trust him and he very much trusts me and thats from years together. We’ve gone through so much together. It’s quite special

So with the release of your Dirt Femme round the corner, there’s some pretty hard hitting tracks and subject matters on there. One that stood out for me was ‘Grapefruit’, where you kind of divulge into your previous battles with eating disorders and body image in your teenage years. Why now are you ready to speak on this so vulnerably? 

It’s the first song I’ve ever written about my body and food issues and it took me being well for a very long time to be able to write a song about it. I’ve been trying to write that song for about 10 years It was from when i was about 15 to 19/20 and I’m just so happy that I was well before i became an artist and had a career as an artist. 

All the people criticising you and commenting on you for all the things you’ve been staring yourself blind about and wanting to crawl out of your own skin about but then again at least personally and from hearing about it, talking to friends who’ve had it about it, it’s very rarely about your body its about something else. So to get well you have to first of all stop, untrain your destructive behaviour and then deal with what’s actually going on. A long journey.

It’s not even just the trolling. Trolls are like meh. It’s honestly also photoshoots and media, “we were told you would be smaller so idk if this is going to fit you”. Makeup artists are like, “You know your right eye is a lot lower than your left.. so your face is kind of crooked”, “let me just remove that double chin” and you’re like, “Oh I have a double chin?”. It’s just all these little detailed comments and the way people write about you and they retouch you without you asking them to. 

But I think thankfully because I went through so much therapy and really worked on, “I do not want to end up back there”, I kind of feel like I was loving my body more and had a better relationship with food than I would have if I didn’t go through that.

It was a horrible time in my life and I was on and off for all those years, when you’re already going through a lot in your life those years, teenage into early adulthood. I can’t believe I let myself do that to myself and now I’m grateful for it that I really spent the time getting well.

"The songs that make me feel better if I’m going through something like that are not songs that are telling me how I’m supposed to feel..."

How and why with a subject matter so vulnerable and raw do you translate that into dance pop sounds?

It’s funny because it’s so catchy. I’ve always loved contrasts like that and I think for me generally, I guess I just had to write the song and that was the day I had to write it. 

I was working with my roommate Tim, who I’ve worked a lot with on this album, and he made this track that was like super dancey and fun and I was just like, I had to get it out of me. It was all tied to me shooting a movie and having to lose weight for that movie and going on a diet for the first time in like 10 years and it was fine I did it and started eating normally and got back to my normal weight, it was very undramatic but in my head all these memories got triggered from doing that I was just like i need to write it out.

i started remembering what it was like being stuck in that anxiety and he was like your melodies sound so good, he’s not really a lyric person and then he was like, “…Are you …?” He couldn’t even ask the question, “like, is this something going on with you right now?” and I was like, “No it’s the past but I had to just finally do this song”

The songs that make me feel better if I’m going through something like that are not songs that are telling me how I’m supposed to feel. I like to listen to body positivity songs when I’m feeling myself and I was remembering I didn’t like listening to songs that were like ‘you should love yourself’ cos then I felt as though I was failing at not reaching that level of content with myself.

I felt better listening to songs that were feeling the way I was feeling. I think that’s why I wrote it that way. It’s what I needed to do.

In '2 DIE 4' you sampled what is considered the world’s first electronic song, Gershon Kingsley's 1969 ‘Popcorn' and turned it into a futuristic, synthy floor filler. There seems to be a new pattern in pop music of late, or singers stripping it back and paying homage to origins of dance music, what do you make of this revival?

I love it. I love dance music, I DJ. I’ve been playing with that sonically since like Lady Wood. I think maybe because I spend a lot of time in that world too I wasn’t that suprised [by this recent revival] but I think the way that Beyonce has done on RENAISSANCE it is just so genius. It’s funny I see a lot of people saying, “She’s not progressive, she’s just following and taking trends” - but that’s the whole thing, if you can see everyone’s doing this, let me do it way fucking better than everyone else, then that’s winning. Then you’re a great creator and you know what you’re doing.

I love seeing that happening and I love also the r&b and soul melodies that she puts in or like drake rapping over those kind of beats. It brings back a lot of great history of genres that were merged together. It’s very beautiful to see again. I’m here for it, I love to dance. Lets gooo!

It’s funny, when you see that happening. I put out ‘2 Die 4’ and then you’re like oh we’re all in the movement together and then you’re like oh you’re just getting the same inspiration. I like that though and you all add your own flavour and, hopefully it stands out on this track. 

Dirt Femme arrives October 14th

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Photo: James Kelly